Recently, I was on the phone with a colleague who runs a business that’s mostly online. We were talking about how building a business that is scalable to me (aka an online business) has been a real challenge, because I’m so dedicated to providing high-touch, one-on-one services to my clients.
She surprised me by saying that she had had her fill of the online event space, and wanted to experiment with other modes of interacting with her potential clients. She brought up the first event that I did (the Boss Lady Bash) in 2015, and she asked me what my thoughts were.
“To be honest,” I said. “It changed my business.”
It wasn’t overnight, and it certainly wasn’t in the same few months, but as I got more consistent with hosting live events, the more clients I got, even in an industry that people said was “impossible” to build in Montana (that is, being a corporate-only event planner that runs a sustainable company).
However, I know it’s not always the case, and sometimes, my Plan of Attack clients come to me and are completely at a loss for how they can fit a live event into their marketing plan.
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The biggest problem is that most event hosts treat the event as the main course, when it’s really just a light appetizer, especially as a service based business. And if you’re treating your event as a light appetizer, the following methods will show you how to convert clients that attend your events.
Opt to treat your event as a lead generating event
The biggest mistake event and retreat hosts make is treating their event like THE one source of revenue in the funnel. In fact, events, done smartly, should be a way to capture high-touch, high-impact clients. Live events can convert a higher level client 3 times faster than any digital touch, so you REALLY want to make sure that the people coming to your events are qualified clients (meaning they’re serious about what you have to offer and not kicking the tires).
If you are hosting a 50-person event, aim to deliver value such that you get 2-3 clients out of the deal and you broke even on event costs, you’re doing it right.
Create really unique content that doesn’t revolve around you presenting.
Most people want to create a workshop or retreat and cram AS MUCH value (aka “teaching”) into the days as possible. PLEASE RESIST THIS URGE. Events are 15% informational, 85% relational, so try to create content that helps keep that ratio in mind.
For the Boss Lady Bashes, I only talk for a total of 20 minutes over the course of the 3-hour event. That’s because the goal is that other people have a GREAT time, and feel like they were heard, which in turn, gives them positive memories of the event. Compare that with what I hear about industry conferences, where people hang out in the hallways and chat, instead of listening to the keynotes. I’d rather have 20 minutes of kickass presenting and 70 minutes of group work and dialogue, than 90 minutes of straight teaching.
Focus on relationship building and helping people, rather than instructing or teaching.
Be a connector at your events, instead of feeling like you have to be the expert, because clients who work with you in a high-touch capacity want to know that you’re taking care of them (which usually doesn’t mean you teaching, but instead, you focusing your attention on them).
Spend a few minutes with each attendee if possible, and for those that you don’t meet, try to follow up for a quick call or email exchange after the event. When people feel like you are genuinely interested in their success, they’ll have fewer barriers to hiring you.
Always have something to pitch at the end.
And I don’t mean a $99 e-book.
Events are high-touch, high-impact, which means you’re going to aim to convert 10% of people in the room, at a much higher level than what they walked in the door with. If you’re a consultant or a 1:1 service provider, or if you offer high-end products, at the end of the event, you’re going to want to let your attendees know how they can continue working with you (there will ALWAYS be one, if you’d planned a good event).
Without anything to pitch, you’ll pass up a really important opportunity, which is to let the people who showed up for you attain their goals by working with you more closely. If you don’t pitch them, they may miss out on all your service-providing genius.
Keep your event attendee list on hand for a year post-event.
Sometimes, there can be a REALLY long lifecycles to close clients, and someone that attends your event may not sign up with you for a while. Try to touch base with anyone you hosted immediately after the event (be sure to note their info and pertinent details in a document for easy recollection). Make a note to then follow up with them after one month, three months, and six months. Genuinely ask them questions about where they are in their progress.
I have a client who downloads all information that he may have stored about each individual person he met onto notecards, to be uploaded into his CRM later and this practice has helped him cultivate meaningful relationships with his clients during each event that he hosts.
Remember, event lists are highly important to continue building relational capital with your attendees, so remember that an event itself may not make an enormous amount of profit, but the people who attend are often your perfect customers.